Postal Alternatives

Existing frameworks for how trade is facilitated between countries in this sector

The arrangements described in this section are examples of existing arrangements between countries. They should not be taken to represent the options being considered by the Government for the future economic relationship between the UK and the EU. The Government has been clear that it is seeking pragmatic and innovative solutions to issues related to the future deep and special partnership that we want with the EU.

There are a number of existing arrangements which govern the way in which other countries trade with each other in this sector, particularly in terms of parcel delivery.

Postal services are included in the EU’s bilateral Free Trade Agreements with third countries, focussing on minimum regulatory provisions and commitments. The requirements do not place any additional burdens on EU governments, National Regulatory Authorities or Universal Service Providers. Rather they replicate standards and minimum requirements of the existing EU legislative framework. The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) includes provisions for increasing the transparency of regulation, including liberalising postal services.

The World Trade Organisation reports that a total of 54 WTO members have commitments on courier services and/or postal services (counting the European Union as one), as of 31 January 2009. The principles of trade in postal and courier services (including express delivery) are contained, as for all services, in the General Agreement on Trade in Service (GATS).

In the ongoing WTO negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement, postal proposals have underscored the need for commitments resulting in more extensive coverage of these services in the schedules of commitments. In identifying barriers to market access and national treatment, some proposals have emphasised the existence of monopolies, while others have focused on measures discriminating against foreign suppliers. Some delegations have encouraged the undertaking of additional commitments in schedules to address certain regulatory issues. Anticompetitive practices, cross-subsidies, universal service obligations, independent regulators and licensing procedures are some of the issues mentioned in this regard.The right of members to define the kind of universal service they wish to maintain has not been questioned, as suggestions have focused on such aspects as transparent,non-discriminatory and competitively neutral implementation.

There are also wider examples provisions for the postal sector in trade discussions.For example, on discussions on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) potential arrangements consistent with the EU Postal Directive were considered. The draft Free Trade Agreement on Delivery Services provides for: i) independent regulation; discretion on the form of a universal service provider; and competition across the sector. This include a prohibition on anti-competitive behaviour by monopoly postal operators.

Customs arrangements are increasingly important for postal sector due to the rising demand for cross-border online purchases. The EU has customs facilitation agreements with a number of third countries, including Canada, South Korea and Switzerland. These agreements differ in the depth and scope of facilitation offered, but in summary, include: a. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Canada) – provides, for example, that the parties adopt or maintain simplified customs procedures in order to facilitate trade between the Parties and reduce costs for importers and exporters. The Parties agree to applying risk assessment principles to the decision to examine goods, rather than requiring each shipment offered for entry to be examined.

a.The EU and Canada also undertake to cooperate on interoperable systems and in international fora.
b. EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement – provides, for example, the advance electronic submission and processing of information before physical arrival of goods, in addition to the parties endeavouring to apply simplified procedures for economic operators.
c. Agreement with Switzerland – provides for general cooperation and administrative assistance, mutual recognition of inspections and documents certifying compliance with the other parties’ rules, in addition to the facilitation of 24 hour crossing and express lanes. The Swiss agreement also provides for mutual recognition of Authorised Economic Operators, and facilitation in respect of security-related customs controls.